Domestic Violence and Child Custody
Generally, Florida law presumes that parents share the right to custody of their children unless there is reason to believe that it would not be in the child’s best interests. One unfortunately common reason that this may occur is if one parent has committed domestic violence. Florida courts understand the detrimental effect that domestic violence can have on children and do their best to protect children from harm. An understanding family law attorney can help you keep yourself and your child safe from domestic violence.Domestic Violence Defined
Florida law defines domestic violence as violence against a family or household member. This includes:
- Spouses or former spouses;
- Relatives by blood or by marriage;
- People living together as a family; and
- Couples who have a child together, regardless of relationship status.
There are two types of custody in Florida - legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions for the child, such as in the areas of health care, religion, education, etc. Physical custody concerns visitation and where the child lives.
When making a custody determination, Florida courts begin by presuming that the parents should share custody, unless that will be detrimental to the child. If a parent has been convicted of a domestic violence crime, this creates a presumption that it would be detrimental for that parent to have custody. The parent then has the burden of proving otherwise.
A conviction is not required, however, to change a custody decision. The court will take any evidence of domestic violence into account. At the beginning of any custody proceedings, the parents must inform the court of any domestic violence occurrences, injunctions, or terminations of parental rights with other children.
Before the court makes its custody decision, there will be a hearing to determine whether there should be any contact between the parent and the child. The court must ensure that the child’s emotional and physical safety and wellbeing are not in danger.Supervised Visitation
If an abusive parent is granted visitation, the court may order supervised visitation. This means that a trained supervisor will be present at any visitation to observe the parent’s interactions with the child. After a time, the court may modify the parenting plan to stop the supervision. The court may order that abusive parent pay the costs of the supervisor.Termination of Parental Rights
In extreme cases, the court may terminate a parent’s parental rights. A judge may terminate parental rights when the parent:
- Is a career criminal or habitual felony offender;
- Is a sexual predator;
- Has been convicted of first or second degree murder;
- Has been convicted of first degree felony sexual battery;
- Has committed aggravated child abuse or sexual abuse against the child; or
- Conspired with or hired someone to commit the murder of the other parent or another child.
The court will also consider the parent’s relationship with the child, the child’s age, the parent’s criminal history, and other relevant factors when making this decision.
If you have any questions about how domestic violence may affect custody of your child, an experienced attorney can understand your struggles and help you protect the rights and safety of you and your child. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein today to schedule an initial consultation.